How to manage your stress
Stress is depression’s ugly side kick, and all too often a huge part of our lives. Nowadays, we have so many sources of stress; from existential crises to anxiety as a result of not ‘liking’ our friend’s post on social media.
Although being informed and having a bunch of good relaxation techniques can make all the difference.
First thing’s first, let’s start with a simple breathing exercise:
- Start by exhaling all the air in your lungs.
- Then breathe slowly into your belly for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds, before exhaling for 4 seconds again.
- Finally, hold your lungs empty for 4 seconds and then repeat. Do this breathing exercise for at least 5 minutes every time you need it, or even every day as part of your daily routine.
So, what is stress?
Stress is the body’s natural and immediate response to danger. Stress still serves this purpose by keeping us from getting run over by buses and prompting us to stay a safe distance from the edge of cliffs etc. Although, our stress response has, for the most part, been hijacked by many other stimuli like computer screens, social media, inability to unplug, disturbing news stories and more.
The path towards mental wellness isn’t always easy and there are no quick fixes. But, including a few more stress-reducing habits into your daily routine will help you be healthier and happier. So, here are a few to get you started:
1. Drink Water
This one is easy to include in your daily routine, but it makes a big difference. Staying hydrated has proven to naturally reduce the body's stress hormone; ‘cortisol’. If your body is only running on coffee or other stimulants throughout the day, your stress hormones can fall out of balance. Water has tons of health benefits too, like helping your body get rid of toxins, boosting your metabolism and controlling your appetite.
Pro tip: Get a water bottle that you really love. If you like drinking from it, you’ll drink more. You can add some healthy flavoring to your water as well, like lime, lemon or cucumber to make it more enjoyable and boost your electrolytes.
2. Create a relaxing evening schedule
In the evening, try to avoid screens one hour before you go to sleep, and fill your evenings with activities that you like to do and that help you relax. This could be reading, painting, knitting, taking a bath, listening to music, heading to the gym, yoga, you name it. The point is to give yourself a break from the persistent chatter in your head throughout the day.
3. Listen to your body and breath
Learn to recognize how and when your body reacts to stress. As soon as you notice yourself getting stressed out, take a deep breath. When you breathe deeply, your body sends a signal to your brain to calm down and relax, it’s that simple! If you can take a break from what is triggering the stress, do it. Go for a walk or sit in a quiet room and do a simple breathing exercise. Then, when you come back, you’ll feel rested and less tense.
Figure out what the main sources of your stress and identify the ones you can eliminate from your life. Some things that we worry about we simply can’t control and accepting those things can lead to less anxiety. Write down a list of the things you stress out about on a daily basis, then go through the list and practice accepting the things you can’t control. Finally, using the tasks you have deemed in your control, make a schedule and plan how you will deal with them. Focusing on one task at a time and setting realistic goals will help you work more effectively on the things that really need your energy and attention.
Be kind to yourself and have fun! Being stressed about something that may or may not happen doesn't necessarily change the outcome, so don’t make yourself suffer twice. Plus, try not to take life too seriously, nobody gets out alive.